What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

Why You Might Use a Customer Data Platform 

Many marketers, cx professionals, and technology leaders are seeking smart ways to unify their customer data. The customer data platform, also known as a CDP, entered the market to try to answer this challenge. In general customer data platforms are a type of software that unifies customer data in a single database.  Other systems can then pull from this central database and use the data as needed. Business leaders today often have questions about data fusion. One of the most common of these is “how do I organize my data to deliver better customer experiences?”  The answer to that question can sometimes be a CDP. 

Often, the data you need to build better experiences already exists. Brands like Segment, BlueConic, and Tealium offer powerful solutions for data organization. Customer journey orchestration allows you to connect tools like CDPs with other parts of your tech stack and make it possible to get results from those data efforts. And this is crucial. What businesses need isn’t just to have data, or even have data in one place. Instead, it’s what you do with that data that matters.

Building Great Experiences Starts With Data Organization and Data Fusion

We have long been advocates of data fusion. It’s certainly one of the most basic parts of building a great customer journey. What a customer data platform can do is connect all of your data in a single place for other channels or a central decisioning hub to influence the customer experience. Customer data platforms also have an advantage for CX leaders and Marketers. This is because they’re often easy to pick up and use, where data warehousing projects require intensive IT support.  

Is it possible to do data fusion without a CDP? While CDPs make the process much easier, it is possible to do data fusion without one, especially if you have already done a larger data project, or if you’re working with a customer journey management platform. With the right tools, it’s even possible to have a virtual CDP. For example, Kitewheel uses a federated data model, which allows us to interact with data where it sits. Often, this process is similar to how a CDP connects to data, though Kitewheel does so without necessarily creating a new database. Whatever way you get your data connected, having a data fusion capability is a powerful starting point for future journey delivery. 

How CDPs Can Be the First Step To Full Journey Orchestration

Before analytics, orchestration, and automation, brands need to connect their data. Customer data platforms make this easy for marketing teams to do because they’re pre-packaged offerings that are designed from the ground up for data fusion. If you have a CDP and it’s working for you, that’s an excellent start to journey orchestration. By using the data collected in a CDP, businesses can use that data in a journey analytics tool to understand all customer activities wherever they are interacting.  They can even plug that data into an orchestration engine to make personalized 1-to-1 decisions for their customers.

Ultimately, a customer data platform is as good as the tools that you use it with. If you already have many channel tools, you can use multi-dimensional segmentation to target specific individuals so long as those tools can make decisions themselves. A CDP enables every other tool in your stack to do its job better. That’s nothing to scoff at. Many projects that Kitewheel has worked on have greatly benefited from having a CDP in place or bringing a CDP into play as part of a digital transformation. But where many brands have struggled is when they bring on a customer data platform expecting it to help them orchestrate their customer journeys.

The Hype Around Customer Data Platforms

the gartner hype cycle shows Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) heading towards the trough of disillusionment

With any emerging technology, interest and excitement naturally ebbs and flows with time. According to Gartner, the hype around CDP’s is heading for what they call the Trough of Disillusionment. Many Customer Data Platforms are going to face more questions about how they deliver value going forward. As we’ve explained, CDPs are powerful tools for getting data organized and delivering that data to other systems for decisioning, message delivery, and more.

This should not be cause for alarm. As industries and technologies mature, they naturally flow through the hype cycle. When you explore your options for a customer data platform, be certain to think of why you want it. If the end goal is journey orchestration or personalized experiences, a CDP may still be one place to begin. Once you have your data in a centralized database, or when you’ve created a single customer view, you may be able to more easily begin journey implementation.

4 Terms to Watch Out For To Deliver Great Experiences

Customer data platforms can be used to organize data and enable other systems to deliver experiences with that data. However, businesses have taken to using different terms that often sound similar. These terms are also often conflated and this creates confusion. Here are four comparisons to help business leaders understand which terms signal real ability to manage customer journeys and which are meant to capture buzz:

Moving from enablement to action is the key differentiator between a customer data platform and a journey orchestration platform Profile resolution is a key power that CDPs have. This can be useful in future journey decisioning Data fusion is a key part of journey orchestration, but don't confuse data orchestration with journey orchestration. A CDP can organize data, but not deliver the full journey experience without channels and decisioning. CDP data can be used to make campaign level experiences truly great, or with the help of a customer journey hub, can make a holistic customer experience possible

How Kitewheel Connects to Customer Data Platforms 

Kitewheel is a customer journey orchestration platform. We use centralized decisioning to deliver great customer experiences wherever customers want to interact. As a systems-agnostic tool, we happily connect to any tool you’d like to use. When working with a CDP, we will use the data that they have collected to make decisions. We do this based on how customers are interacting in each channel and based on their historic behavior. Essentially, Kitewheel can turn data into action by automating messaging, message suppression, or real-time experience changes.

For example, if your brand uses an email tool, has a mobile app, listens on social media, pays for ads with a DMP, and has listened to the website, a customer data platform will collect that data and make it accessible. Kitewheel takes that data and turns it into a seamless, real-time experience for your customers. When a customer interacts on the web, we can dynamically influence their next web experience or even their next call center, mobile, or email experience. This is true for any combination of channels or systems.

By adding in a journey orchestration component, it is not only data but also decisions that are centralized across the business. With journey orchestration, email campaigns and web experience can be tied together in real-time.  Social listening can be used to forecast call center requirements, and call center conversations can dynamically suppress marketing emails. While it is possible to run real-time email campaigns and real-time web experiences with a CDP, making them part of a personalized cohesive journey requires journey orchestration.

Climbing the Customer Journey Maturity Pyramid 

Climbing the journey pyramid is the best way to improve the customer experience for your bank or other brand.If you’re interested in getting a CDP to solve your data fusion challenges, we encourage you to do so!  Just be sure that journey decisioning and orchestration are part of the conversation as well. You don’t need to wait for data to be perfect to begin managing the journeys at your business.

We invite you to read the Customer Journey Maturity Model. It’s full of insight on how you can scale the customer journey maturity pyramid. Inside you’ll read about: 

  • The foundation of the journey maturity pyramid: data connectivity and data fusion
  • Why using analytics early can help deliver powerful journey results in the future
  • How to build journey steps and strategize for better journeys
  • And much more…